There are many different types of yeast-free bread you can make using only your sourdough starter as a leavener. In this post, we’ll discuss sourdough basics, starter science, and we’ll list the top recipes that you can make using your sourdough starter.
Sourdough bread has enjoyed the boost in popularity since the pandemic started, and for good reason! Maintaining a sourdough starter is a satisfying and interesting hobby, and baking bread is both productive and therapeutic. Yeast-free breads are right up there with sourdough!
When you bake sourdough, you need to have a starter. A starter is basically a little microbial world of bacteria and wild yeasts that thrive on the flour and water you feed them.
There are many ways you can get a starter without making it yourself. You can post on neighborhood groups on Facebook, request some on NextDoor, or simply ask someone that you know makes their own sourdough.
Most people are thrilled to share their starters! You may even luck out by calling a local bakery and asking them. They may guard their starter more than a neighbor, but it’s worth a shot.
King Arthur Flour also sells starter online! One ounce is only $9, and it’s descended from a century-old starter.
All that said, there’s a certain beauty in making your very own starter. It’s truly amazing to watch as this glob of flour and water suddenly starts bubbling away, growing and expanding and full of life.
When I made my own, I was totally geeking out the entire time.
First, what even is a starter?
To make yeast-free breads, you’ll need something to create the rise in the oven, and your starter is just the ticket.
A starter is made of two ingredients: flour and water. If this seems too good to be true, it’s not! What we don’t see are the hidden ingredients that bring the starter to life: millions of wild yeasts and bacteria that digest the flour and turn it into carbon dioxide and lactic acid. You can’t see it, but it’s happening as soon as you add the water to the flour.
What kind of flour is best for sourdough starter?
Different flours produce different results in terms of microbial and yeast activity. Depending on which you choose, your starter could be ready to bake with very soon, or may take several weeks. Below, the three most common types of flours (all-purpose, whole wheat and rye) are listed with explanations regarding their activity in a sourdough starter.
- White flour (all-purpose flour and bread flour) has been stripped of most of its nutrients, so it doesn’t have much to offer the microflora to eat. As such, building a starter on only white flour is a slow process.
- Whole wheat flour has a lot more nutrition for the microbes because it’s less processed. Starters built with whole wheat flours grow faster.
- Rye flours tend to attract the most yeasts of all the flours, which causes the starter to ferment the fastest, and takes the least time to grow strong.
It’s up to you which flours you would like to use. Most bakers use a blend of two or sometimes three flours. I like a half-and-half blend of all-purpose and whole wheat flours, but you might find a different blend that works better for you. Plus, the 50/50 white/wheat blend is a truly utilitarian starter that you can use for all of these yeast-free breads.
Note: If you live in the UK, I found this helpful page that compares US and UK flours!
What makes sourdough bread different?
When people think of bread, they tend to think of that which uses commercial, or quick rise, yeasts. However, this type of bread has only existed for just over 160 years.
Sourdough breads are made with wild yeasts and bacteria. Three basic ingredients – flour, water, salt – come together in a beautiful symbiotic rhythm to rise the bread naturally, as has been done for thousands of years. The yeast and bacteria that exist on the flour grain and on the bakers hands get kick-started once the water is added to the flour. They begin digesting the flour, and a by-product of this digestion is carbon dioxide. The CO2 creates bubbles in the dough, which gives the bread its rise. Some bacteria even digest gluten, creating lactic acid which brings the sour to the sourdough. (An interesting side note: many people who are gluten-sensitive are actually able to eat sourdough with no digestive issues – this is due to that breakdown of the gluten protein, making it gentler on sensitive stomachs.)
So, in other words, sourdough is basically superior to yeasted breads in nearly every way! Without further ado, let’s get baking!
12 Yeast-Free Bread Recipes: Sourdough Focaccia, Ciabatta, Challah and more
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- Pane Bianco
- Altamura-Style Sourdough Bread
- Dinner Rolls
- Soft Pretzels
- Pita Bread
- Naan Bread